Monday, September 30, 2013

Day 13 - Charing Cross and Seven Dials


Charing Cross Road is a mecca for book lovers.  One of our favorite book stores in London is Foyles (113–119 Charing Cross Road).  Every time I visit I end up buying something, and this trip was no exception.  Foyles, which opened in their current location back in 1906, was once listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's largest bookshop in terms of shelf area (30 miles/50 kilometres) and number of titles on display. In the past, it was famed for its anachronistic, eccentric and sometimes infuriating business practices; so much so that it was a tourist attraction.

Under Christina Foyle (daughter of founder, William) the store operated a payment system that required customers to queue three times: to collect an invoice for a book, to pay the invoice, then to collect the book, simply because sales staff were not allowed to handle cash. Equally mystifying to customers was a shelving arrangement that categorized books by publisher, rather than by topic or author. A quote of this period is: "Imagine Kafka had gone into the book trade." In the 1980s, rival bookshop, Dillons, placed an advertisement saying "Foyled again? Try Dillons" in a bus shelter opposite Foyles. (BTW, Dillons closed in 1999).

Foyles has since modernized, opened new branches and established an on-line store.  In 2013, it was awarded National Bookseller of the Year.  Currently it has over 100,000 eBooks available for sale on-line.

Foyles Bookstore
After we did our shopping, we walked over to Seven Dials, a small but well-known road junction in the West End of London in Covent Garden where seven streets converge. At the centre of the roughly-circular space is a pillar bearing six (not seven) sundials, a result of the pillar being commissioned before a late stage alteration of the plans from an original six roads.  Despite the foot traffic, cabs and trucks still manage to drive through this busy intersection.

Seven Dials
The original layout of the Seven Dials area was designed by Thomas Neale in the early 1690s. The original plan had six roads converging, although this was later increased to seven. The sundial pillar was built with only six faces, with the dial itself acting as the seventh. This number of roads was chosen in order to maximise the number of houses that could be built on the site.

Following the successful development of the fashionable Covent Garden Piazza area nearby, Neale aimed for the Seven Dials site to be popular with well-off residents. Unfortunately, his plan didn't succeed and the area gradually deteriorated. At one stage, each of the seven apexes facing the column housed a pub. By the nineteenth century, Seven Dials had become one of the most notorious slums in London, being part of the rookery of St Giles.  The area was described by Charles Dickens in his collection Sketches by Boz, which includes the sketch I've included below.

Monmouth Street around 1836: illustration by George Cruikshank
Today, Seven Dials is a prosperous, largely commercial, neighbourhood, between the West End theatre district of Shaftesbury Avenue and the fashion-focused shopping district in and around nearby Neal's Yard. Inevitably, the junction of seven roads means the space is dominated by traffic, generally slow-moving in these narrow streets, usually crowded with people.  On one of the seven apexes of the junction is a pub, The Crown; on another apex is Cambridge Theatre (Matilda, the musical is currently playing there), and on a third the Mercer Street Hotel (formerly the Radisson Edwardian Mountbatten Hotel). Despite some redevelopment, many of the original buildings remain.

The replacement sundial column was constructed in 1988/89, to the original design. It was unveiled by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, during her visit to commemorate the tercentenary of the reign of William and Mary, during which the area was originally developed.When in Seven Dials, we usually visit a small theatre bookshop, Dress Circle, situated on Monmouth Road right off the dial, so we headed there, but it was gone.  There's a dress shop in its place now.

London's Former Dress Circle Show Biz Shop
Another casualty of the online revolution.  It does have an online shop (http://www.dresscircle.co.uk), but the brick and mortar store had a lot of theatre memorabilia that is lost in online shopping, unfortunately.

A statement on Dress Circle's website reads:  "Over the past months we have tried in vain to negotiate with our landlord to move our shop into smaller and more cost effective premises. The cost of keeping Dress Circle open in the current location is too high, and it has become apparent that we will not be able to dispose of our current lease. The downturn in the economy has also taken its toll on us, as well as the ever changing way that people are buying music. With CDs becoming relics and downloads being more popular, Dress Circle, the shop, has struggled to keep up for a long time and we have reached the point that we are no longer able to continue."

They closed their doors on August 15, 2012.

Disappointed, we walked around and found a shortcut back to our flat.  London is full of small alleyways open only to pedestrians that can take you easily from one section to the other if you know where to look.  It is also very easy to get lost.

After we returned, hubby went on to Tesco to do some last minute shopping.  We had dinner, watched The Dresden Files and are about to settle down to start the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo.  Until tomorrow.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Day 12 - A fateful Duck Tour makes its Swan Song


Currently, our small apartment looks like a Chinese laundry.  When we booked the flat, we thought it came with a washer/dryer combination.  Turns out, however, that it's just a washer, and to dry our clothes we have to hang them up and let them "air dry."  So, our laundry is now "air drying" all over the flat, hanging on door knobs and furniture handles.  Our clothes do dry fairly quickly, so that's a good thing.  Still, it wasn't exactly what we were expecting.

In regards to something I mentioned in an earlier post, when we went to Buckingham Palace on Friday, hubby caught a picture of the guard change.

Guard Change at Buckingham Palace
He was a little disappointed, since he'd been led to believe the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace was a much larger affair than what he captured on camera.  Hmm.  Perhaps it had something to do with our timing.

London Duck Tour about Town
Today we stayed in, finished our laundry and worked on computer stuff.  I had thought we might take a "Duck Tour."  It's London's only amphibious tour where you go about the city, first on land, then for a dip in the Thames as the wheels of your tour bus tuck in and the vehicle becomes a boat.


Except, we heard on the early afternoon news that one of the tour boats caught fire with 30 people aboard.  Luckily everyone was rescued and no one was seriously hurt.

Duck Tour Boat on Fire in Thames River
They are supposed to be safe.  Even the Queen took a short tour on one of them.

Queen taking a Duck Tour
Anyway, it was probably a good idea that we chose not to ride one, today at least.  Instead we left the flat around 6 PM and decided to try a pub dinner.  Fish and chips is the usual fare, but we saw The White Swan was offering a Sunday dinner of beef roast with Yorkshire pudding.  Yum

The White Swan - Covent Garden
Since, it sounded too good to pass up, we went in.  Unfortunately they were out of the beef roast by the time we arrived.  They did have a beef rib pie with green beans and mashed potatoes.  I didn't get a picture, but the one below is very similar, except instead of carrots and broccoli we had green beans.

Beef Rib Pie
The crust was very light and flaky and the beef was tender.  After we ate, we strolled about Covent Garden for a bit, then returned to the flat to watch a movie. Not much to report, but I wanted to check in.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Day 11 - Laundry, cleaning and bills - Oh, my!



Today was housekeeping day.  No, that's not our place.  It's Buckingham Palace from the gardens, and it has a sizable staff to keep it clean.  Back at our flat, we did some laundry using "Surf's Essential Oils," which are small purple packets that you toss into the washer.  So, toss one in we did.  Unfortunately, it turned some spots on one of my multi-colored tops (that I had taken Tide spot remover to) purple.  Not a bright purple, but they were certainly more obvious after we washed it, than before.  So, I began to get creative.  I finally used plain bar soap to remove the stains, then washed the top again without any detergent.  The stains aren't entirely gone, but at least they are no longer purple.


Then I dragged out the vacuum cleaner.  It worked very similarly to the one we used in West Ken, so no problems with it.  While doing all this productive cleaning "stuff," I worked on my blogs.  Seems we had a few issues today with links not working properly and authors posting over the stated limits.

Now, we are relaxing and watching the telly.  They still air The Weakest Link here, and Ann is still as caustic as ever.  Hubby did some shopping.  We need to print something, so he went searching for an Internet cafe that had a printer.  Unfortunately, the one we found on the Internet was now a wine and cheese shop.  So he went on a quest.  A successful one.

We had prepared meals for dinner that we heated in the microwave.  Not very exciting.  Still, I thought I'd report in, even though I had nothing good to share.  That's it until tomorrow.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Day 10 - A Royally Wicked Visit

Buckingham Palace Gardens
Today we decided to tour The State Rooms at Buckingham Palace.  They have a special exhibit celebrating the Queen's 60th year on the throne.  The exhibit included her coronation gown and robe as well as the dress two-year-old Princess Anne wore and the shirt and trousers five-year-old Prince Charles wore.

Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation Dress
The State Rooms are lush and beautiful.  Well worth the hour and half wait to get in.  You aren't allowed to take pictures once you're inside, but pictures are available for viewing on the Internet, which I will share. Being that Buckingham Palace is both a working palace and the London home of the Queen, you have to go through security, but once you're approved to enter, you are provided with an audio guide and in seconds you are stepping into a world few get to experience.

Buckingham Palace Throne Room
Hubby has a sort of odd sense of humor, so when we were in the the State Dining Room and the narrator told us that the room was set up as it had been when President Obama visited, he asked the room guide if he knew what President Obama thought of all the ropes they'd set up to protect the rooms.  The guide merely smiled.

Buckingham Palace State Dining Room
Because they are still celebrating the Queen's sixty years on the throne, they set up the State Banquet Room to match the way it was set up for parties thrown shortly after the Queen's coronation in 1952 down to the exact place settings and flowers.

Buckingham Palace State Banquet Room
Unfortunately, like I said, we couldn't take any pictures of the room's set up, so I can't share the set up with you, but the flower arrangements were white and pink.  We finished the tour around 6 PM aware that we had 7:30 PM tickets to see Wicked tonight as well.  We thought we had plenty of time.  We did make it, but not early enough for us to eat dinner before the show because we walked to the Apollo Victoria theatre from the palace.  I hadn't realized just how close the Buckingham Palace is to Victoria Station.  Well within walking distance, and probably only a brisk twenty minute walk, except we no longer walk very briskly.

Apollo Victoria at night
We've seen the show before, and always enjoy it.  What made this show special was it celebrated the seven year anniversary of the show in London.  Hundreds of green and pink balloons dropped from the ceiling with the words 7 years Wicked.  We have a picture of the balloons as well as the outside billboard, which I will go through and edit and post tomorrow.  In the meantime, I'll share the opening scrim of the show, which my naughty hubby snuck.


After the show, we shared our balloons with some passers-by then took the tube back to the flat and ate dinner, which were baguettes from Upper Crust.  That's it for tonight.  Will add more tomorrow.  Night.



Thursday, September 26, 2013

Day 9 - Much Ado About Everything


Today, hubby stood in line for "day of" tickets for "A Midsummer Night's Dream."  He managed to get two tickets, so we're seeing the play tonight.  One of the stars is Sheridan Smith, who we saw in Legally Blonde back in 2010.

The Shard
In the afternoon, we decided to take a London transport bus that basically followed the path that the tour buses take.  Since it was daylight, we tried to take more pictures of the London Eye and the Shard.  We were supposed to be able to take the bus all the way to the Tower of London, but as occasionally happens, the bus had to terminate its route early, this time on Tooley Street.  We waited for the next RV1 bus to take us to Tower Hill, then we had to get off, and get on again with another swipe of our Oyster card in order to return to Covent Garden.  However, this bus also terminated early, this time dropping us off at Warterloo station on the south side of London.  So we waited for the next RV1 bus and finally made it back to Covent Garden.


We stopped briefly in the London Transport Museum so hubby could pick up a new mouse pad with a map of the Underground on it.  After that we walked through the Farmer's Market food fare and bought dinner.  I had what was essentially a steak salad and hubby had a sausage on a baguette.  We returned to the flat to eat and watch a little telly while I downloaded my video camera files and went through them.  Then we walked to the Noel Coward theatre for a little culture.

Noel Coward Theatre
Really good show.  The woman who played Helena (Katherine Kingsley) was excellent as was the actor who played Bottom (David Williams). He really hammed up his death scene as Pyramus by stroking the head of the guy who played his beloved Thisbe after Pyramus had killed himself.  The story is a play within a play with the non-fairy actors dressed in what appeared to be World War II clothing and the fairies were dressed like hippies.  They even played a few songs from Hair and "The Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkle.  After you get used to the language, it almost seems like they're talking modern day English.


Sheridan Smith and David Williams as Titania and Bottom
We sat in the very first row, which meant if an actor dropped to lie down on the stage I couldn't see them unless I stood up, which I didn't want to do because of the people behind me.  After the play, we returned to the flat and relaxed for a bit before going to bed.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Day 8 - Taking a night tour of London


Today we decided to take a night bus tour of London.  Rich captured a few pictures and I captured some videos that I need to view to see if I got any shots that are worth sharing.

On the bus we met a gentleman from Pittsburgh and one from Dubai who were attending a trade show in London.  We chatted with them for a bit and realized they were new to the city.  So, as we listened to the commentary, we added a few tidbits that were missing or the recorded commentary was badly timed with the ride.  It's a fine line between being helpful and annoying, and we succeeded in being helpful..

We started out at Victoria station and rode one of the old Routemasters (pronounced rootmaster).  These older buses required a driver and a fare collector.  When they switched over to accepting the Oyster travel card, versus having most of the passengers pay with cash, the powers that be thought they could make the fare collector redundant.  However, with the new buses you can enter from the front (where the driver is) from the middle and from the back, and people were neglecting to press their Oyster card against the readers, so they were losing revenue.  That meant the new "Routemaster" bus we took today had a driver, a person in the back who hopped out at each stop to help the passengers alight or exit, and a fare checker, who asked everyone to either show their ticket or press their Oyster card on his machine to make sure they were legally riding the bus.  Oh, well.

Original Routemaster bus
Another idea that didn't work well for London was the "bendy buses," which were single decked but two buses in length.  That meant they took up more road space, which is at a premium in London.  They were still in service in 2010 and totally removed out of service by 2011.

Bendy Bus or Articulated Bus
According to Wikipedia, articulated buses take up (18 metres or 59 feet long compared to 9.1 metres or 30 feet for a Routemaster and 10 metres or 33 feet for a double decker).  What's worse, during late 2003 and early 2004, a series of onboard fires on the bendy bus led Londoners to humorously nickname the articulated buses "the chariots of fire."  In addition, when the bendy bus made up approximately 5% of the London bus fleet, they were involved in 20% of all bus-related deaths, which has led to their replacement with the "New Routemaster."  So, we're back to where we started, almost....

New Routemaster
Anyway, for our tour we rode an open-topped old routemaster, the only one left in the city, and we traveled the following route.


So first we got a picture of Apsley House that was once the home of the Duke of Wellington and is known as #1 London.

Apsley House

Next we captured Picadilly Circus, which had so many people about, we thought maybe a party was going on that we weren't invited to, which is totally unacceptable.

Picadilly Circus
Next on the route was St. Stephens Tower that houses the bell known affectionately as "Big Ben."

Big Ben's Tower
Lastly we captured Tower Bridge lit up in all its glory at night.  Once I get a chance to go through my video camera, I may add some photos from there.

Tower Bridge
In the meantime, it's 1 AM here, so I'll sign off for the night.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Day 7 - I'm all for home improvement, but at 3 AM?


Not sure what our neighbors were doing last night, but they had a hammer and drill out at 3 AM.  Between their redecorating, the lorries or trucks driving past the flat and the tube rolling beneath us, sometimes it's difficult to stay asleep.  Though I am a fairly sound sleeper.


Today we're seeing the currency ex-changer.  From our many visits, we've discovered taking US Dollars and converting them over to GBP once we're here is the most cost-effective way to go.  Better than travelers checks and converting the money in the USA before we travel.  In the meantime, we tried to book a trip to the Cotswolds tomorrow (the Cotswolds are considered to be an area of outstanding natural beauty typified by rolling hills and farm fields peppered by dots of white sheep), so until we know whether or not that's a go, we can't purchase theatre tickets for tonight.  We booked the trip late last night, so we'll give them a call later to see if it went through.

On our way to Victoria Station we stopped by Covent Garden, and the living statue guys were back.  I'm not sure how this guy does his trick, but there is nothing visible holding him up.  He's very popular with the kiddies, though I must admit we were equally as amazed.


Looks like our request didn't go through for tomorrow, so we are trying again for Thursday.  On this trip we'll be going to Stratford-on-Avon (Shakespeare's home) and Oxford.  Today, however, while we were in Belgravia, we purchased tickets for a performance of Wicked this Friday night.


We took a different bus route back to the apartment, and it was detoured, so it terminated in Parliament square, which obliged us to hop on a different bus with a transfer in order for us to get back to the flat.  Rather than Leicester Square, this bus dropped us off near Chinatown.  So, we stopped and took a picture.



Hubby has gotten pretty efficient at getting us through the complicated layout of London.  So, we were back at the flat in no time, and tonight we're doing laundry.  Yeah, really exciting.  We think we've got the machine figured out (it has temperature dials and other numbered dials).  Hopefully, our clothes will come out in one piece.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Day 6 - To Market, To Market to buy what we can


Another late start today.  Hubby isn't doing too well.  I think he's still having trouble adjusting to the time change, but he thinks it might be something else.  Not sure.  Anyway, plan to take it easy.  We're off first to Marks & Spencer to see what they have to offer in the way of food stuffs.

Marks & Spencer Covent Garden
Well, their refrigerated/frozen food section is much larger than Tescos and they have a fairly extensive Indian food selection.  We saw a lot of Kellogg's products, but no General Mills.  Of course, M&S stocks many brand names that are well-known here, but are unknown in the USA.  Like Fairy dishwashing and laundry detergent.
Fairy Dishwashing Liquid
For laundry detergent you have to choose between bio and non-bio.  I thought it meant biodegradable, and wondered why anyone would purchase something that is labeled as being "bad" for the environment.  Turns out it means biological.  If you're curious, like I was, below is the explanation between the two.

Bio vs non-bio laundry detergent
The key difference between biological and non-biological washing powder is the presence of enzymes. Biological washing powders contain enzymes that help break down proteins, fat and starch. This helps remove stains such as chocolate or hamburger grease.

Biological washing powders containing enzymes (the 'biological' part of ordinary laundry liquids) are more effective than non-biological laundry liquids and powders.

Another difference in the stores here, vs the states, is that they store their bread goods, rolls, donuts, etc. out in the open.  They aren't wrapped in cellophane or protected in any way, however, most of their veggies are wrapped in packages and dated. Shopping is done on an almost daily basis, rather than once a week because places are smaller (including refrigerators) and most people carry their groceries home, so you only want to purchase what you can comfortably carry.

After we finished our shopping at Marks & Spencer, we returned to the flat and put away our stash.  Next we trotted out to Tesco and finished our shopping there.  We took a longer route home from Tesco that had us strolling by Covent Garden before we returned to the flat.  Daytime temperatures are in the low 70's or 19-20 centigrade.  Evening is in the mid-sixties and refreshing.

The Emmy Awards are on tonight, and though I'm tempted to watch them they don't start until 10 PM, which means it will be midnight or 1 AM before they are over.  Besides the winners have already been announced, so I'd be watching solely to hear the speeches and see the outfits.  However, I do want to see Neil Patrick Harris's opening number, so I'll start them at least.

We ate in tonight (I had a tray of Chili con Carne and rice we purchased at M&S and hubby had ham and cheese on a half-baguette). For a short day, we did manage to get a few things crossed off our todo list.  And to paraphrase Scarlett O'Hara "Tomorrow is another day we can get out and about town."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Day 5 - I wish our upstairs neighbors didn't wear steel-toed boots


I originally thought our upstairs neighbors were redecorating at 6:30 in the morning.  It sounded like they were shifting about heavy furniture, or a body in a coffin.  Oh, goodie, a murder mystery.  Then it sounded like they were tossing trash bags down the stairs.  Being a writer, who likes to plot, I imagined she was kicking him out, except there was no shouting.  Then, whoever these people were, they donned their steel-toed boots and clumped down the stairs like they starred in the musical "Stomp."  It sounded like a small army was descending among us.  Turns out, I guess, since I never did peek out to see what was going on, that they were guests packing up to go home and the clomping I heard was the heavy luggage they were assisting down the stairs.  Deja vu.  I do not look forward to that day in November, but I'll keep in mind what they sounded like and try to be a little more considerate of our neighbors.

Eventually, I drifted back to sleep.  Then the bar next door opened up and people were partying hearty, on Sunday, in the morning.  Not sure of the exact time, since I decided not to look at a clock as I pretended to ignore them and drifted back to sleep again.  Next thing I know it is 3:30 PM.  Yikes.  Good thing we didn't have anything planned because we would have missed it.

So, I'm updating my web site and hubby is checking out the telly.  It's nearly 9PM and we're having our breakfast/lunch/dinner meal.  I get the leftover steak sandwich and fries from our Wednesday dinner at Cafe Rouge, and hubby is having toaster muffins with jam.  Yum.  Note: fries do not re-heat well no matter which continent you're on.

I anything exciting happens, I'll check in again later, otherwise I'll see everyone sometime tomorrow.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Day 4 - Saturday is "Catch-up" Day

An unsuspecting Kathryn caught on camera in Leicester Square

Today was my day for paying our bills, checking Saturday Spanking Links, and catching up on sleep.  I think I accomplished everything I set out to do.  So, now we can go out and mingle with the people.  No real plans for today or tonight, so we'll probably be "stay at home bunnies."  Have a bite to eat, watch a little telly, enjoy each other's company, while I work on my web site.

Normally, my computer and I are inseparable.  We spend all day together with my fingers attached to the keyboard, so when I have to leave it during the day, I go through a period of withdrawal.  Is there such a thing as "computers anonymous?"  Anyway, I left it alone while hubby and I toured through Covent Garden again

This time we watched a couple of the living statues that pose there.  In case you haven't heard of them before, the term living statue refers to a street artist who poses like a statue or mannequin, usually with realistic statue-like makeup, sometimes for hours at a time (per Wikipedia).  The ones we watched were in gold/copper paint, wore masks and appeared to be sitting in thin air without any means of support beneath them.  They were really good.  Kids would walk up and have their picture taken with these guys.  Unfortunately, we didn't take our camera with us, so we'll have to capture them the next time we visit.

Below is an example of one.  I saw a similar living statue in Bath back in 2010.


After our stroll through Covent Garden, we walked over to Leicester Square and ate at Bella Italia.  We both had pasta, and nothing looked really out of the ordinary to take pictures of (though we still didn't have our camera with us), but it was a good meal.

After dinner, we walked back to the flat and settled for the evening.  A quiet night, just like I said.  More to follow tomorrow.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Day 3 - And we thought living in London was expensive - Getting out is prohibitive



We currently have two weekend trips scheduled, one to Edinburgh and one to Bath, and we're going by train.  Though we're taking the same line for both trips, we leave from different stations.  That means figuring out the train schedules and choosing between Off-Peak, Off-Peak Day, Super Off-Peak, and Ranger and Rover tickets, Single and Return, Flexi or Fixed.  Rail Discount cards are available as well, but for some you need to be a resident of the UK, and eight weeks does not a resident make.

So, today we rose early for us (11:30 AM, which my body still insists is 6:30 AM and is asking whether or not I've lost my mind).  I did make a go of it, really.  I checked e-mail, worked with Triberr and even started this blog post, then I (ahem) petered out and went back to bed.  So, we didn't leave the flat until 4:30 PM.

TKTS Booth in Leicester Square

Walked to Leicester Square and visited the TKTS Booth where we like to purchase seats to the West End shows for half price (some shows that is).  We decided to see Spamalot.  We saw it in 2005 in NYC, but we're both Monty Python fans, and with tickets available for half price at 25 GBP each, we decided to see it again.  Spamalot is based on the movie "Monty Python's Search for the Holy Grail."

Naomi Watts in Diana
While we were in Leicester Square, we took a picture of the Odeon movie theater poster of Naomi Watts starring in "Diana."  Both of us thought she looked spot on for the ill-fated princess and I think it's fitting we see the movie in London.  We'll see.

Kings Cross/St. Pancras train station
Tickets in hand, we got on the Picadilly tube and got off at King's Cross/St. Pancras to buy the rail tickets. Another successful outing that cost us 239 GBP, and that's with discount rail cards.  London isn't cheap, and getting out of it is really expensive.  As a side note, King's Cross was the station with track 9 1/2 for the train to Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies.  St. Pancras is known for its beautiful Victorian architecture.  From Wikipedia: "The Grade I listed building stands on Euston Road in St Pancras, London Borough of Camden, between the British Library, King's Cross station and the Regent's Canal. It was opened in 1868 by the Midland Railway as the southern terminus of its main line, which connected London with the East Midlands and Yorkshire."

London Eye from Embankment
Rail passes and tickets purchased, we hopped back on the tube to Leicester Square and ate dinner at our favorite Cafe Rouge.  Hubby managed to get Tesco (grocery store) vouchers that give us a 20 GBP discount off of our food (not alcohol, so glasses of wine are not eligible, but that doesn't stop me from ordering one with dinner).  Interesting side-note, refills on soft drinks are not free in Europe, nor is bread and butter complimentary like it is in the states.  After dinner it's back on the tube again this time taking the Northern Line to Embankment.

Festival on the South Bank
There was a fair or festival going on near the London Eye on the South Bank, so I tried to get a video of its rides as well as the London Eye, which you can see above is a striking blue at nighttime.

Ride at the Festival on the South Bank
We sat on some benches and watched the tourists go by on a sight-seeing boat.  We're regulars, you know.  Not tourists at all.  Hubby even gives lost souls directions on how to get about the city, and where they should visit.  We'll be spending our 36th anniversary here, and I thought it would be fun to take a dinner cruise on the Thames.  Unfortunately, we'll be on a train to Edinburgh on that day, but maybe the following week.

Spamalot at The Playhouse near Embankment
Curtain time for our show tonight is 9 PM, which is late for the West End.  Most shows start at 7:30 PM.  So at 8:30 PM we strolled from Embankment to The Playhouse theater.  We had front row Dress Circle seats, which were very good, though the guard rail partially obstructed my view, unfortunately.  It did not impede my enjoyment, however.

Set of Spamalot
Rich was very naughty and took a picture of the stage set at the end of the show.  If you've seen the movie, you know it ends abruptly.  Actually, there is no ending.  For the musical, they bring the house lights up but leave the stage lit, so audience members (like me) think the actors might return for an encore, but they don't (you'd think I'd remember that from the first time I saw it, but no.).  Instead, the audience sits there flummoxed until the orchestra finishes and packs up to leave.  It's sort of funny, when you think of it.  You almost expect someone to come out on stage and say, "The show's over, folks.  So, pack up your stuff and leave already.  What do you need, an invitation?"

Now, we're back at the flat and I'm going to add pictures, check e-mail, etc. then make an early night of it. Right.  It's 2:30 AM now.  Yup, it's an early night all right.  Bye.